Cubicle Warriors — Now is the time

By Scot Herrick | Cube Rules Commentary

Nov 28

In case you missed it — and you shouldn’t have if you work in the financial industry — things are not going well in the land of credit. As in, you can’t get any credit and neither can your company.

The result is scary headlines with massive layoffs, huge losses by companies — and sweet pay packages for exiting CEO’s who presided over their great losses. Of course.

Regardless of whether or not you are in the financial industry or the hottest of the hot markets, the credit crunch will eventually hurt both you and the company you work for right now. While some companies are pretty good at cutting costs without impacting payroll, most companies are not. And, in my opinion, it’s easier to lay people off than to actually understand what needs to be done to fix the business process and make things more efficient. Certainly, in management’s eyes, it is more expedient to lay people off and hope for the best.

In short — whether you know it or not — the uncertainty around your job has increased significantly in the last few months if you don’t work in the financial industry and is pegged at the max if you do. Including the viability of your company, considering that some 150+ mortgage companies alone have gone out of business since the discovery that sub-prime mortgages actually carry risk.

What’s to be done by a Cubicle Warrior in this time of uncertainty? You follow the characteristics that make a Cubicle Warrior in the first place:

Finances

  • If you have a ‘teaser rate’ home loan that is going to reset any time in the next two years, do a tremendous amount of work to get a fixed rate mortgage. Yes, it will cost you more money now, but certainty at a fixed rate is much better than uncertainty later.
  • Get a years worth of take home income into a liquid account. The bad thing about credit recessions if we have one is that the job market goes to hell in a hand basket pretty quickly and it will take a lot longer to find a position. Having a years take home pay reduces the stress — and makes you less desperate to take any (wrong) position later.
  • Carefully note that a year’s worth of take home dollars sitting in a taxable account does NOT include anything with a home equity line of credit. Home prices are dropping and this is a credit availability problem, so why would you want your lifeline in your home?
  • One needs to balance cash flow with paying off debt — it is an individual call. I once worked for a retail chain and the owner noted that a store could lose money for years, yet go bankrupt in a month without the cash flow from turning inventory. I’m of the personal mode right now that, with little debt, to pay minimum amounts to the one credit card company I owe a little bit on and take all the rest of the money to put into savings to preserve cash flow.
  • If things need maintenance, do them now while you still have income to do them. New roof, repair car — surgery. Getting credit for replacing your roof won’t happen if you don’t have a job. Taking dollars for survival to repair a roof you know needs repairing when you don’t have a job isn’t smart thinking.
  • Continue to maintain your FICO score. Your credit worthiness gets you the best rates — and now companies are looking at your credit scores before hiring you as better credit scores mean better employees to them.

Job Performance

  • Continue good job performance — get to accomplishment. This work does two significant things: first, you will be ranked on your performance with the lowest performers being laid off first and doing a good job lessens the chances of being laid off. Second, your accomplishments are important to your next employer — make sure you have a lot of them to present.
  • Your job performance means nothing if functions or sites are eliminated. If your company decides to close the Peoria Pit Stop because it is no longer needed, it doesn’t matter that you are ranked number one on the site. You’re gone. So make sure your accomplishments are noted for your next employer.
  • Short timing your current position reduces your chances of staying. It is one thing to be a slacker in the work when you have been laid off but are still with the company. I’d be looking for a position. It’s another to think you will be laid off and take a short-timers attitude at work until the announcements are made. That is the kiss of death both in your current position and risks your next position. The future — always in motion; so don’t motion it to shove you out the door.

Job Skills

  • Job Skills still need to be managed. My little mantra, learned from a great manager, is that Job Performance plus Job Skills equals Opportunity. If there are job skills yet to acquire to make you better in your position, do what you can to go get them. Without the skills, there is no job. Without job performance, there is no opportunity.

Networking

  • Now is the time to be communicating with your network. All of the time, of course, is the correct answer, but if you haven’t been communicating about your situation with those you know, you need to be because opportunities will come from doing so.
  • Now is the time to be building your network. Especially if people are being let go in your company, get their personal e-mail addresses and phone numbers and keep in contact with those you respect and trust. They will find a position — maybe with a company at the exact time you need to be looking for a new position from your own layoff or choice to leave. The strongest people in your network can be the ones you are working with right now (see: job performance…). If they leave, they can be strong advocates for you. And vice-versa.
  • Remember, networking is natural. Networking is about keeping in contact and helping people with what they need to be successful. Build up your good work with your network and people will pay you in kind.
  • Remember, networking takes time. Given the scorched earth policies of employment by Corporate Earth, your network is your resource for employment. So take the time to maintain and build your network.

Family Relationships

  • Build and maintain a strong relationship with your spouse and children. Or, your closest family members. These people are a critical piece of your support structure. Being open and honest about what is happening at work, working together to come up with and work a plan, and being supportive of each other will go a long way to reducing family stress on top of work stress.
  • Your reaction to your work environment will imprint your children’s reaction — consider the lesson you are teaching them. Being open with your children about what is happening to the family given the messaging to match the age is incredibly important. When they grow to adulthood, they will remember how you handled this situation and use it to model their own. Know how you are modeling your situation with your children.

Work what you can control.

In the end, as a cubicle warrior you won’t be saving the company nor deciding your company’s fate. You can only work that which you can control. Thinking through my life, besides what is noted above, I can control a lot:

  • How much I exercise. No links, but exercising reduces stress and renews your commitment to yourself. So exercise.
  • How much and what I eat. Binge, or watch your diet? You have control.
  • My relationships.
  • My reactions to what is happening in my work life.

Finally, maintain your integrity.

Management gets a little scary when desperation settles in. Insecure managers will raise their hand to take on impossible tasks, invoke unilaterally stupid decisions, and provide direction that clearly shows they have no respect for your thinking or judgment. When managers start doing things that look like saving their skin at the cost of the people that work for them, you are in dangerous territory.

You can follow along quite a while, but there comes a time when their judgments cross your integrity. If you are a Cubicle Warrior, you will have the right stuff to maintain your integrity in the face of stupidity. It’s a judgment call, of course, but you know when your line is about to be crossed. Don’t let it and be true to yourself.

It’s a little scary out there in cubicle-land right now. It will get worse. If you have followed the principles of being a Cubicle Warrior, the conditions will be tough. But you will be resilient knowing you’ve got the right stuff to succeed, whether or not your company succeeds or fails.

Be a Cubicle Warrior.

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.